Los Angeles Dodgers' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2015

Los Angeles Dodgers' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Dodgers system stands out for its collection of potential star-caliber players as well as its overall depth, with a balance of high-ceiling and high-floor talents that should have the organization in a position to succeed for years to come.

    2012 first-rounder shortstop Corey Seager enjoyed a historically good 2014 campaign, batting nearly .350 and pacing the minors in doubles while reaching Double-A Chattanooga for the first time.

    Center fielder Joc Pederson, who became the first Pacific Coast League player since 1954 to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, was included among the Dodgers’ September call-ups, and he appears to be the team’s preferred center fielder going forward. Meanwhile, outfielder Alex Verdugo, the team’s second-round pick last June, absolutely raked in his professional debut and should be ready for a full-season assignment in 2015.

    Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention 24-year-old outfielder Scott Schebler, as his outstanding showing at Double-A last season proved that his power and overall production from 2013 wasn’t a California League fluke.

    In terms of pitchers, 18-year-old left-hander Julio Urias, 22-year-old right-hander Chris Anderson and 2014 first-round pick Grant Holmes give the Dodgers an impressive crop of arms to build around, and right-hander Jose De Leon isn’t far behind them.

    Here are the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Darnell Sweeney, 2B/CF

    Austin Barnes, C/2B

    Alex Guerrero, 2B

10. Julian Leon, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 01/24/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2012 (Mexico)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5055205545

    Scouting Report

    Signed out of Mexico in 2012, Leon had a monster 2014 season at Rookie-level Ogden, batting a robust .332/.420/.565 with 12 home runs in 264 plate appearances. He did show some swing-and-miss tendencies by striking out 53 times on the year, but the 18-year-old also exhibited a promising approach that netted him 31 free passes.

    As a physically strong, 5’11”, 215-pound teenager, Leon possesses plus raw power to all fields that already turns up within games, as he has no issues leaving the yard to the deepest parts of any park. He’ll rip open with his front side at times and try to pull everything, but his natural feel for hitting allows him to make the necessary adjustments and avoid prolonged slumps.

    Leon’s defense lags well behind his bat, as he’s a raw blocker and receiver with poor catch-and-throw skills and inefficient footwork. His plus arm strength should help him partially control the running game at lower levels as he refines other skills, but it doesn’t mask the reality that 18-year-old has a long road ahead of him toward becoming a passable defender in the major leagues.

    Ceiling (OFP [Overall Future Potential]): 50 (major league regular) - High risk

9. Scott Schebler, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 10/06/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 208 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: 26th round, 2010 (Des Moines Area Community College)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5055504045

    Scouting Report

    Schebler was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2013 after a breakout season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in which he batted .296/.360/.581 with 27 home runs in 534 plate appearances. However, the fact that he posted those impressive numbers in the California League meant the 24-year-old outfielder would have even more to prove at Double-A in 2014.

    Suffice it to say Schebler legitimized himself as a prospect last season, batting .280/.365/.556 with a career-high 28 home runs at Double-A Chattanooga. On top of that, the left-hand hitter improved his strikeout and walk rates, respectively, against quality pitching in the Southern League.

    Though I worry about his aggressive approach and willingness to expand the zone, Schebler has proven that he can make enough contact to offset some of his swing-and-miss in his game and hit for a respectable batting average. He’s also a good bad-ball hitter and shows power to all fields during games. Lastly, Schebler’s speed is better than you’d expect given his stocky, 6’1”, 208-pound frame, as he’s recorded three straight seasons with double-digit stolen bases in addition to receiving increased playing time at all three outfield positions.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular) – Low risk

8. Alex Verdugo, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 05/15/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 200 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (Sahuaro HS, Arizona)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5550506050

    Scouting Report

    Selected in the second round (No. 62 overall) of the 2014 draft, Verdugo was viewed as the best two-way player—he was also a highly regarded left-handed pitching prospect with a low-90s fastball—in the class before the Dodgers tabbed him as an outfielder. Granted, it’s still early in his career, but it looks like the organization made the right decision.

    Verdugo, 18, batted .347/.423/.518 with 20 extra-base hits and more walks (20) than strikeouts (14) over 49 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League and then finished his impressive pro debut with a 9-for-20 performance over five games in the Pioneer League.

    A 6’0”, 200-pound left-handed hitter, Verdugo’s bat speed, bat-to-ball ability and advanced approach highlight his potential for an above-average hit tool. Meanwhile, his power should be at least average at maturity, with the potential for 15-plus home runs in his prime years.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (first-division regular) – High risk

7. Jose De Leon, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/07/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 185 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 24th round, 2013 (Southern University and A&M College)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    65555060

    Scouting Report

    After an underwhelming professional debut in 2013, De Leon put himself on the map this past season with a jaw-dropping performance at Rookie-level Ogden, leading the Pioneer League in strikeouts (77) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.8) and posting a 2.65 ERA in 54.1 innings. Yet the 22-year-old was even more impressive after he moved up to the Low-A Midwest League, with a 1.19 ERA and an insanely good 42-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22.2 innings spanning four starts.

    De Leon’s uptick in velocity last season pushed his fastball into the mid-90s, and more could be on the way as he continues to build up arm strength. The 6’2”, 185-pound right-hander’s improved velo also turned his slider into a true swing-and-miss offering, registering in the low 80s with excellent depth and bite. De Leon also has a changeup with average potential, but it’s currently his least advanced offering and will need to be developed thoroughly for him to continue moving up the ladder as a starting pitcher.

    De Leon will likely head back to the Midwest League next season to work on refining his changeup and overall command. However, if he’s anywhere close to as good as he was in 2014, the 22-year-old right-hander could end up making stops in both High- and Double-A.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter) – High risk

6. Zach Lee, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/13/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (McKinney HS, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    5550505560

    Scouting Report

    Lee went through a learning year in Triple-A last season, as he posted a disappointing 5.38 ERA and allowed the third-most hits among starters in the Pacific Coast League but also set new career highs with 27 starts and 150.1 innings pitched.

    The 24-year-old right-hander has never developed the mid-90s fastball that many projected at the onset of his pro career, but he still sits comfortably in the 88-93 mph range and effectively pitches to both sides of the plate. His secondary arsenal features a curveball and slider, with the latter representing the better offering, while his changeup has nice fading action in the low 80s and projects as a solid-average.

    Lee will return to Triple-A in 2015 for a second tour. The 23-year-old’s capacity for making adjustments at his previous stops suggests he’s going to bounce back next season, and if that’s ultimately the case, Lee should also receive his first taste of the major leagues.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter) – Low risk

5. Chris Anderson, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/29/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Jacksonville)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 5

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60606045

    Scouting Report

    Anderson showcased power stuff in his first full pro season and paced the hitter-friendly California League with 146 strikeouts, but he also struggled to consistently throw strikes, resulting in 63 walks and a 4.62 ERA in 134.1 innings.

    A physically strong right-hander at 6’4”, 215 pounds, Anderson uses his height and strong lower half to produce fastballs in the low- to mid-90s on a downhill plane, and he can reach back for even more when necessary. He tries to blow his heater by hitters too often rather than attempting to hit spots and set up his secondary pitches.

    Anderson’s slider flashes plus at 82-85 mph with good depth and tilt and a late, wipeout break that makes it his best swing-and-miss offering. The right-hander’s changeup is average offering, thrown in the 80-83 mph range with some fading action, though the pitch stands to improve a full grade with development.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter) – Medium risk

4. Grant Holmes, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 03/22/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Conway HS, South Carolina)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    70656050

    Scouting Report

    After the Dodgers selected him with the No. 22 overall pick last June, Holmes went on to post a 3.72 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 58 strikeouts in 48.1 innings between the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues.

    At 6’2”, 215 pounds, Holmes has a thick, durable build with broad shoulders and a strong lower half. The 18-year-old right-hander features two plus pitches in a 93-96 mph fastball (which has scraped triple digits in the past) with late life, and a wipeout curveball with sharp break in the low- to mid-80s. He also has a very underrated changeup, a pitch that he’ll begin to develop thoroughly in 2015.

    As is the case with all undersized right-handers with big-time velocity, the concern with Holmes is whether he can handle the rigors of a full professional season. The 18-year-old has the potential to move relatively quickly through the Dodgers’ farm system so long as he stays healthy, as he requires less projection than most pitchers his age due to his build and present stuff. If everything goes as planned with his development, Holmes should have the chance to reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 2 starter) – High risk

3. Joc Pederson, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 04/21/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: 11th round, 2010 (Palo Alto HS, California)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5560555560

    Scouting Report

    Pederson enjoyed one of the better seasons in minor league history in 2014, as the 22-year-old was named MVP of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League after leading the league in home runs (33), OPS (1.017), on-base percentage (.435), runs scored (106), walks (100) and total bases (259). He also became the first Pacific Coast League player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season since Frank Demaree in 1934. Unfortunately, Pederson didn’t fare as well in his first taste of the major leagues, as the September call-up was just 4-for-28 (.143) with 11 strikeouts and nine walks in 38 plate appearances with the Dodgers.

    At 6'1", 185 pounds, Pederson is an impressive athlete with quiet strength, showcasing five average-or-better tools and good secondary skills. He projects to be a slightly above-average hitter at the highest level, with a mature approach and line-drive-oriented swing, and he already demonstrates a feel for working counts and getting on base.

    The left-handed hitter has shown at least above-average power at every minor league stop, as he set a career high in 2014 with 33 bombs. His power will play even if the average doesn’t translate, as the 22-year-old is patient enough to wait out specific pitches each trip to the plate.

    Pederson consistency on the base paths rivals his power frequency, as the 22-year-old has now swiped at least 26 bases in each of the last four seasons. Beyond that, his knack for getting on base and using his speed to put pressure on opposing defenses should always make him a consistent source of runs.

    Pederson is a natural in center field, with plus range, excellent instincts and above-average arm strength. And after the Dodgers offseason trade of Matt Kemp to San Diego, the position should be his to lose in spring training.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (Potential All Star) – Low risk

2. Julio Urias, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 08/12/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: 2012 (Mexico)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    65606060

    Scouting Report

    Urias solidified his status as one of the game’s top prospects in 2014, as the precocious left-hander dominated older hitters in the hitter-friendly California League in his age-17 season.

    After celebrating his 18th birthday on Aug. 12, Urias capped his outstanding campaign by posting a 0.44 ERA with 31 strikeouts over his final 20.1 innings (five starts). On the season, the southpaw pitched to a 2.36 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 109 strikeouts in 87.2 innings while also holding opposing hitters to a dismal .194/.292/.290 batting line.

    Urias’ stuff and feel for his craft are truly special, and not just in context of his age. The 5’11”, 160-pound left-hander’s mechanics are smooth and repeatable, which allows for him to find a consistent release point from a three-quarters slot. His fastball already sits in the low 90s and bumps 94-95 mph, and he’s adept at manipulating the pitch so as to generate both sinking and cutting action.

    The southpaw’s curveball shows plus potential in the 78-82 mph range, and he has a distinct feel for changing the shape and pace via adding/subtracting. Urias also throws a fading changeup in the low 80s with late fading action, though his feel for the pitch lags behind his other two offerings. 

    Urias isn’t your average pitching prospect, and, so far, the Dodgers haven’t treated him as such, challenging the teenager with aggressive full-season assignments. The 18-year-old is a safe bet to reach the major leagues as a teenager, possibly as early as 2016, though it may take him several years to work his way to the front of the rotation.

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 2 starter) – Medium risk

1. Corey Seager, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 04/27/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Northwest Cabarrus HS, North Carolina)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6060506055

    Scouting Report

    Corey Seager posted gaudy numbers this past season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, as the 20-year-old mastered the California League with a robust .352/.411/.633 batting line, 34 doubles, 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 80 games.

    The offense-friendly parks of the Cal tend to inflate hitters’ numbers, so it was great to see Seager continue his torrid production after moving up to Double-A Chattanooga. In his first taste of the Southern League, he batted .345/.381/.534 with two home runs, 16 doubles and 27 RBI in 37 contests.

    Overall, Seager amassed 75 extra-base hits and led all minor leaguers with 50 doubles. On top of that, he actually fared equally well against same-side pitchers as he did righties this season, posting a 1.065 OPS and 24 extra-base hits in 126 plate appearances against southpaws compared to a .984 OPS with 51 extra-base hits in 400 plate appearances total.

    A 6’4’, 215-pound left-handed hitter, Seager has the potential for above-average hit and power tools at maturity, though there may always be some swing-and-miss to his game. Seager has an easy, direct swing that allows him to sting the ball from line to line, and there aren’t enough positive things to say about his ability to pick apart pitchers and hit in all counts.

    Seager always had shown impressive power to the opposite field, but last season he learned to turn on the ball more consistently and saw his power numbers spike as a result. He’ll only get stronger moving forward, so it’s not crazy to think Seager, like his older brother, will be a consistent 20-homer threat at maturity.

    There are questions about whether he’ll stick at shortstop or need to move to third base long term, which could potentially hurt his value. However, he’s continually surpassed expectations at his natural position, and he should be able to remain there well into his major league career. 

    Regardless of where he ends up defensively, Seager’s bat will have him hitting in the middle of a big league lineup sooner rather than later. The 20-year-old is one of best pure hitters in the minor leagues, with the potential to hit .280-plus and 20 home runs annually while driving in plenty of runs.

    The Dodgers’ acquisition of Jimmy Rollins over the winter gives Seager, who is expected to return to Double-A next season, another full year to develop in the high minors. At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dodgers were to offer him a taste of the major leagues late in the season.

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (All Star) - Low risk

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